There are some days when you just want to break away from the monotony of life and simply wrap yourself in a quiet space, tucked away from the fast-paced world. Just to tell yourself that it is okay that the world and the elements around you are moving fast, but your heart, will beat the same way, slowly and steadily just for you and what you believe in. One of those days, I decided to pack my bags and set off to the land of ruins because it was the perfect setting to dwell in my melancholic musings.
It was an almost impromptu trip. I decided to go on a long weekend but I made this decision only two days before the trip, late I agree, but since I had my friend Tenzin for company, we managed to split the bookings in such a way that it wasn’t too overwhelming.
We booked an overnight bus from Bangalore to Hospet. Lot of private and local buses ply in the route but if you get time to plan this out, you should book a train as it is way more comfortable. Hospet is situated about 350 Kms from Bangalore and takes about 6-7 hours to reach this little district.
My first impression of Hampi was formed when I woke up in between my bus journey and looked at the crystal clear stars from the window of my sleeper bus. They glimmered so bright. I felt as if they were taking the journey with me, whispering stories of this mythological town.
After haggling with auto-drivers upon arrival, we took an auto for about Rs. 150 to Hampi, which is located about half an hour away from this town. We had booked at Hema Guest House in Hampi Island (I agree the name does not sound very alluring) but GoiBibo called me to inform that we had got an upgrade to stay at a more expensive resort called Kishkinta.
Thanking our lucky stars, we headed to the resort. So to get to the Island, you need to take a coracle boat ride which costs around Rs. 50. Squatting in the coracle with Tenzin, I couldn’t wait to discover what Hampi had in store for us if the serene boat ride was any predicament for the time to come. We were allotted a terracotta hut which was both clean and had all basic facilities. By this point we were famished and thankfully the food was good. The spread included bread, butter, poha, idly, vada, sambar, chutney and fruit salad.
On Hampi Island, you can explore only few things. We decided to cover Gagan Mahal Palace and temple, Anegundi Palace and Durga Temple. While these places were once attractive and whole, now they are a ghost of their past and most places are damaged or terribly decapitated. This does not, however, prevent them from being beautiful with their bruises.
The only way to get around in Hampi island is to rent a bike and chug away while you explore the ruins. So with a worn out map in hand, we set out, exploring these places one by one. I would say just the ride was worth staying in Hampi island. Roads are not well developed and it is a conscious effort by UNESCO to keep it that way as too much development and access to the place will ruin the aesthetics that it has to offer tourists. The place is replete with guest houses which serve brilliant world cuisines that you should not miss out on. We stopped at Gauthami Guest House to have lunch and oh my! We were thoroughly impressed by the laid-back décor. Trippy paintings adorn the wall, mattresses with low tables, rustic fans revolving in a quaint thatched roof and mellow music lilting across the hall-all these left us in a trance. We couldn’t leave the place for couple of hours. We literally just slept there lazily while our omelets and pasta arrived, which were brilliant by the way.
We then headed back to Kishkinta resort, packed our bags and decided to head to Gauthami resort for the night. Those trippy lights in the shape of tornadoes were calling out to us, what could we possible do?
This is where we were in for a rude surprise. The run down moped that we were given really ran down while we were traveling alone at night (with pepper sprays-don’t worry). Initially, just the lights went out, so I held out my phone torch so Tenzin could drive in spite of the dark and weird insects that were getting into her eyes. Then when we hit a speed bump, it gave away completely and was sputtering like a parched crow. What also scared us were hoots from bunch of drunk guys on the way. We were worried that they would have followed us to this point. My heart started pounding when I heard footsteps behind us and I turned, all ready with my handy pepper spray, only to discover that it was a different man, walking alone with a torch. He in fact, offered to help us and checked the bike. He then came to the conclusion that the bike’s chain had come off and it could be fixed in a jiffy. We then pushed the bike to the resort (which was thankfully almost nearby) and then the friendly Tamil owners lent a hand and fixed it for us at no cost!
Gauthami resort is actually a shack so it was really cheap to stay there. It costed about Rs. 600 for a night. Our lunch and dinner bills were more than the cost of stay!
The next day, we zoned out of the shack mode and focused on the heavy duty day ahead. We packed our luggage, crossed the island with the help of the coracle and headed to Mango Tree for brunch.
Here we kept our bags and headed out to all the sight seeing places that we had to cover for the day. We were hounded by guides to take us around, but we decided to just take a dedicated auto driver who would take us to the spots we wanted and we read up about the places as we reached each place. We went to Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple, Krishna Bazaar, Krishna Temple, Lakshmi Narasimha, Badava Linga, Stone Chariot in Vittala Temple, Hazararama Temple, Lotus Mahal and Zanana Enclosure, Elephant Stables and Virupaksha Temple. Yes we managed to cover so many monuments in one day! Of course, it resulted in us getting thoroughly toasted but it was worth it.
We first headed to Sasivekalu Ganesha Temple which is a gigantic statue of Lord Ganesha, carved out of a single block of rock at about 8 feet. While we cannot enter the premises of this enclosure, we can view it from a distance due to its powering height.
The Krishna Bazaar is a newly excavated site and is a car track for the Krishna Temple. It used to be replete with shops in the 1500s and was a bustling market place back then. Now only the ruins exist and you’ll have to take a short steep walk down to get to this place. The Krishna Temple is also in ruins but worth visiting.
The Hazararama Temple is interesting as Hazararama means- a thousand Ramas and refers to the multitude of relics depicting the reigning deity of the temple. Set in stone, these stories depict many familiar sub plots in the Ramayana, and its awe-inspiring to see how sculptors managed to carve these in that time period.
Lakshmi Narasimha and Badava Linga are both next to each other. The Badava Linga is the second biggest Shiva relic in India and is a must visit. While it is in a well-shaped enclosure, you can get stunning visuals of the place. The Lakshmi Narasimha relic is a bit run down, making the statue look a bit angry, almost like the Ugranarasimha (angry Narasimha) but in reality it is just a regular statue of god that hasn’t withstood the test of time.
The iconic Stone Chariot within the Vittala temple is a must visit. You will need to take a battery car to get to the actual site. We stood in the queue to get a battery car for almost half an hour. Once we got in, the ride was good as the temple slowly comes into view and its magnificence hits you when you finally reach there. Tourists had utter disregard for the Stone Chariot and I noticed some children climbing on the elephant and taking selfies. It was just heart breaking to watch this and not having the power to do anything about it other than just asking them to move from the frame.
We also took a guide here who explained the history of the temple and demonstrated the musical pillars for us. The pillars within the temple actually make sounds like the dol, table and dripping water when tapped! Don’t miss out on this when you visit.
We then headed to Lotus Mahal which is located within the Zanana enclosure which was a segregated area that was used by the royal women of Vijayanagara Dynasty. It is named as Lotus Mahal because of the shape it resembles. The balcony and the passages covered with a dome that looks like an opened lotus bud. The symmetric pattern of the domes and the windows keep the building cool during summers.
We wrapped up this tiring day with a visit to Virupaksha temple. It was frankly not very impressive as they are currently repainting the exterior and is filled with construction debris but we had a good time filming monkeys surrounding the temple premises!
We also sneaked in some time to do local shopping at the Hampi Bazaar which is right outside the Virupaksha Temple. You get crafts made by local artisans and some trippy shirts to take back with you as a token of Hampi.
To sum it up, it was a soul-searching trip that allowed us time to explore ruins and also get some rest in the laid-back shacks. Just to be amidst the Vijayanagara empire, I would visit Hampi, a thousand times over!